Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Chumps With The Money

by Mark Lawrence, Down-Under Editor

Sydney, Australia—October 18, 2011. On a dark and stormy night back in 1932, Chicago screenwriter Ben Hecht was finishing up the screenplay for Howard Hughes’ mob epic ‘Scarface’, when he had some unexpected guests - two friends of Al Capone. The button men were concerned that Hecht’s screenplay was just a thinly veiled – and less than complimentary - portrait of their boss and sought to discourage the writer from his project. Hecht quickly assured the hoods that the story was based on others, but they weren’t buying it.

“But it’s called ‘Scarface’, ain’t it? – folks’ll think it’s about Al.”

“Exactly! That’s why they’ll come to see it. It’s all part of the racket we call show business.”

Placated, the gangsters headed for the door. But one of them turned back.

“Who’s this Howard Hughes guy?”

“Don’t worry about him,” Hecht said. “He’s just the chump with the money.”

The chump with the money – that phrase popped into my head when I saw John Henry’s remarks about opposing the Crawford signing. John Henry did not like the idea – we already have plenty of left-handed hitting, blah, blah, blah – but chose to acquiesce to others. I get the feeling that the steel-drivin’ man probably decided at the time that Principal Owners don’t need to assert the opinions over their employees. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

Lots of things, as it turned out.

It seems pointless – not to mention masochistic – to spend the off-season constantly digging through the wreckage, searching for the elusive truth behind the Great Collapse. There are far too many technical variables to consider, let alone those muddying factors of beer and fried chicken – although I’m curious as to what video games were being played while the team crumbled. I have a disturbing image of John Lackey swinging those flabby hips, clutching an imaginary microphone and crooning along to Karaoke Revolution on PlayStation. I shudder at the thought of it.

But of course, there is work to be done and foremost in all of it is the appointment of a new manager and some new personnel. And that means some guys on the roster will be packing up their troubles in their old kit bags – but they won’t be smiling about it. Who will go? Apart from the obvious choices, I’m thinking that the old stagers, Varitek and Wakefield, might just see this as an opportunity to retire. If they take this decision, I’ll be disappointed – for them and for the team. Far better to go out on a high, but if you gotta go, well, you gotta go. Of course, the younger guys will likely remain – Pedroia, Youkilis, Ellsbury – and it seems obvious that the 2012 incarnation of the Carmine Hose will be assembled around these three hard chargers. Which leaves the important vacancy at the dugout steps - perhaps the Sox need a 21st Century Earl Weaver to turn things around? But does such a manager even exist these days? Of course not – the mold was shattered after they made Old Earl. But there’s a guy down in Lehigh Valley who could be useful.

Obviously, any speculation by me – and by extension, The Media Pack - seems futile right now, as negotiations with the Cubs continue to grind on, while young Theo waits, impatient to be gone, shuffling his feet and shifting his grip from one hand to the other.

Like many of you, the 2011 season has left me with a profound sense of disappointment and – yes, even a vague feeling of betrayal by some guys I’d hitherto admired and respected. And while I have the uneasy feeling that my long love affair with Boston is drifting slowly but inexorably towards the rocks, there’s always the slim chance that the NOG will get a fingertip or two back on the wheel and begin that slow and painful turn that will right the ship and point it towards a new post-season horizon. So, I guess I’ll be unlimbering my wallet later this year and shelling out for my Red Sox Nation Citizenship and my magazine subscriptions and my MLB-TV package.

But – fair warning to the NOG – you simply have to Get It Right this time. While you apparently regard us fans as just the chumps with the money, next year we might just hang on to it.